Choking in Chesnutt

Michael T. Gilmore

in The War on Words

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780226294131
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226294155 | DOI:
Choking in Chesnutt

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  • Literary Studies (19th Century)


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Charles W. Chesnutt's writings, as a black author, reassert the minority's right to the ruling caste's technology of literacy. Chesnutt's dramatization in The Marrow of Tradition played an essential role in spreading the gospel of Redemption. Tradition crowned southern whites as masters and demoted blacks to slaves; though the “old order has passed away,” regressive ways of thinking, “deeply implanted in the consciousness of the two races, still persist.” Race prejudice has supplanted slavery as the country's enduring cause of oppression. Chesnutt claims that he examines without “pessimism” the intransigence of the old in the new, confident “that the forces of progress will in the end prevail. According to both The Marrow of Tradition and the novel that came after it, The Colonel's Dream (1905), the reconfiguration of slavery as race infiltrated almost all aspects of post-Reconstruction life, perhaps none more so than language.

Keywords: Charles W. Chesnutt; minority; The Marrow of Tradition; Redemption; slaves; race prejudice; The Colonel's Dream; post-Reconstruction

Chapter.  5689 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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